Barbara is known as the Mother of American Methodism. The Manhattan Borough Presidentin honored Barbara for founding what is now the oldest Methodist congregation in the United States at the old John Street United Methodist church.
Barbara was born in Limerick, Ireland, of German parents who had earlier fled the religious persecution of Protestants. She married Paul Heck and settled in New York City. With no pastor attending to them, some of the group of Germans became “careless of religious observances,” and when Barbara found the playing cards, she threw the cards into the first, berated them and talked a member of the group and her cousin, Philip Embury, who had been a preacher, to start holding meetings.
In 1770 the Hecks moved to Camden, New York, where she had a daughter. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War they moved to Salem, New York to be with Loyalists, and founded the first Methodist Society there.
Her husband, Paul, joined the army of Burgoyne and while at home on a furlouugh at the time of the surrender at Saratoga was arrested by patriot soldiers, but got away while the soldiers slept. He escaped to Canada, where Barbara joined him. They formed the first Methodist Society in Canada.